Tuesday, December 30, 2003

Today's Lectio Divina

Reading. John 4:46-54

I am tempted by signs & wonders,
so much so that I often invent them

I remember the wedding
how earth and heaven
were united in one still moment
like a lightening flash

I remember hearing stories
of light filling a room,
of mothers rising from deathbeds

I believe it is possible
I mean, I want to believe

Do I come at the healing hour?

And what I hear
is a sign & a wonder
It is a diadem of light
placed upon my heart
It is a rare pomegranite seed
carried by birds to my child
The child will grow
to be another light
not overcome by darkness.

May I be wary of signs & wonders
May I trust the light in my heart
May I be wary of self-regard
May I trust the Spirit's guidance
May I walk the path
   breath the eternal
   live the Word
Always be born anew
Always begin again
Always walk in beauty

Jesus' response in the cited scripture seems like a nonsequitor: "You won't believe unless you see signs and wonders." And, because it seems unresponsive, it also sounds judgemental. In other words, it sounds like Jesus' is saying: "Geez, you people just won't believe unless I do tricks for you." It's unclear in this translation whether Jesus means people like the "royal official", or people in general. The notes in my Revised Standard version report that the plural form of the second person pronoun is being used in the original Koine Greek. Which suggests that Jesus is speaking to us as well as that official.

The cited passage begins with the comment: "This was the second miraculous sign that Jesus performed ..."(Jn 4:54, NIV). The writer of the Gospel understands it to be a "Book of Signs", which the reader is asked to believe without having personally witnessed them (see Jn 20:29). This seems contradictory: in one breath, Jesus seems to be condemning our need for signs and wonders; in the next breath, the gospel writer cites this event as a sign.

Perhaps Jesus' statement is not a judgement. Perhaps it is a recognition of the human condition: because of our physicality, we need outward signs and wonders to stir our heart and soul to belief. Humans are physical creatures, and we tend not to accept an experience as "real" unless we encounter it through our personal senses. We hear Sunday School stories, but if these stories are not echoed somehow in our personal lives, we are unlikely to maintain a lively and robust faith.

It is a good practice, which I have learned through the writings of Joseph Campbell, to think of these stories as mythic. That is, stories which echo patterns typical in human existence. My task, in considering these stories, is to make a connection in my own life.

For example: when have I needed healing? When have I experienced it? When have I felt forgiveness? When have I experience New Birth?

So: the task for today is to keep my eyes open for modern "signs & wonders" which alert me to an experience of the divine. The additional task is to believe even if I can't recognize those signs.

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